The heat of summer is one of the causes for why ducks and geese are dying at area ponds.
In this show, we hear from a wildlife veterinarian who explains why botulism is suspected in the regional water bodies, and how that is impacting waterfowl.
We also hear from an advocate for local senior citizens. She said people were taken by surprise when they learned the city of Reno was making plans to lease out a senior gathering space to a local nonprofit.
Also, acting Chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, Dale Erquiaga, responds to faculty concerns about evaluations of Nevada campus presidents.
Faculty said campus presidents are not getting the regular evaluations that the public deserve.
The summer heat is one of the causes for why ducks and geese are dying at Area ponds. When birds die, they'll have some level of toxin. And when maggots grow in the decomposing bird, they pick up that botulism toxin and then other birds consume the maggot. get sick, and that's how the outbreak can perpetuate. On today's show, we hear from a wildlife veterinarian who explains why botulism is suspected in regional water bodies and how that is impacting waterfowl. With what COVID did to everybody, especially our seniors, getting them back out of the house and into healthy, you know, activity and hanging with each other and you know, socializing and all that that is being kept by the dollars, you know, you just cannot we also hear from an advocate for local senior citizens. She said people were taken by surprise when they learned that the city of Reno was making plans to lease out a senior gathering space to a local nonprofit. With this week in Reno news, I am Bob Conrad, this is reno.com. Thank you for listening to the show on kW and K community radio at 97.7. FM, or on your favorite podcast app. Please visit us online at this reno.com to get the latest news and events coverage for the greater Reno area. Nevada faculty recently submitted a letter to the new chancellor of Nevada's higher education system. They said campus presidents are not getting the regular evaluations that the public deserves. So the Board of Regents and the chancellor's office received a letter from the Nevada faculty Alliance expressing their opinion about when periodic evaluations of presidents should take place. Particularly if a president has his or her contract extended. I spoke with Acting Chancellor Dale Erkki Yaga, to get his response to the letter presidents typically have a contract for about four years. There have been instances in the last couple of years where a year has been added on. And that's pursuant to board policy that's allowable contracts to be extended in that way. And so the faculty Alliance has really expressed an opinion on how that was done in the past. And the way I look at it provided a statement for what they'd like to see in the future. Okay, and you sit you've twice now said it's their opinion, are you saying that you don't agree with their assessment? So the word policy? Yeah, sure, the board policy requires a periodic evaluation of the President and allows for contract extensions. So when that periodic evaluation takes place is typically triggered by the end of the contract. But if the contract is extended, it's my understanding that the policy interpretation has been internally that the evaluation waits until the year before the contract extends, the language does not include currently in policy statements such as at least every four years. That's something that could be added. And as we look at all of these policies, part of my job as chancellor has to do so we'll start looking at that I appreciate the information and have taken it, you know, in the spirit that I think it's offered, we didn't like the way this was handled, please handle it differently in the future. So as we come into a season of periodic evaluations, which we will do next year, a number of our president's contracts expire in 24. So I'm sure the board will take this into consideration. So this is something that board would have to change, essentially. It's a policy word to be changed. It's a board policy. Yes. So I in the board received the letter. And as I say, we're coming into presidential evaluation season next year, there are five or six presidents I think, whose contracts will expire in 24. So as we go into that process, the board could direct the chancellor, whether that is me or a new chancellor, to change when the periodic evaluations are done, or the policy could be revised, if we find other concerns. So certainly, we'll take a look at that. I don't have to make decisions about periodic evaluations until sometime, I think in the second quarter of next year. So that's April, May, June of 23. So we have time to look at it all. And again, I appreciate the letter. Sure. And you mentioned a couple of presidents, the only one I saw mentioned was GVC in that letter. So the letter mentions that GBC was the president UPC President Helens receives an extension last year. But if I'm correct, and remember, I knew, I think President Johnson contract was extended during the pandemic and I believe President Patterson's contract was extended as well. Okay, and he was stepping down from Nevada State College so it's not unheard of that this is done as it was. Explain to me by staff. It was done this year for President Helens to again, I'm sort of in this situation where I won't revisit actions that were done in the past. I'm going to take the information on a face value of making a contribution to the betterment of the system. And we'll discuss this with the board as we get into 2023. Waterfowl up in dinette area ponds causing concerns among residents. A this is Reno reader contacted us about the situation. I spoke with a wildlife veterinarian Nate law who who's with the Nevada Department of Wildlife. Here is Nate. Yeah, so we've had multiple reports of mostly duck and use mortalities in multiple urban ponds around Reno. We have confirmed botulism type seed in a pond near the south Meadows Parkway, it's an unnamed pond. We're currently undergoing testing for some additional ponds, up in Sparks and north of north of AD. And then we have additional reports from Virginia lakes. And thinking additional and yet additional some small additional ponds that are either on kind of private property or around some of the warehouse. Buildings in South Reno of either dead birds or birds exhibiting signs consistent with botulism. Okay, and what ponds are those? Lake Park paradise and Paradise Park? Okay, and those but those are not confirmed. Those are not confirmed No. Okay, but those defines your scene point toward avian botulism. The signs that are, you know, I that are reported to us by the public and that our urban wildlife person has observed head droop. Inability to fly, are consistent with botulism, given that we've are also diagnosed botulism in South Reno. The conditions in those ponds are similar. We do have, I wouldn't say regular, but we've had frequent, somewhat frequent botulism outbreaks in Reno over the years. So it's not an uncommon thing to happen this time in the summer. So you say over the years, how often or this happened every year. The last report outbreak that we diagnose was 2020. We didn't have any in 2021. We did diagnose it in 2020, in Virginia lakes. And there were some other ponds at that time, I believe, that had some few dead birds or signs consistent, but viable samples were never obtained from those ponds. You know, they gotta be somewhat fresh birds in order to do the QA testing. We didn't have any reported last year, there's probably frequently some small level of botulism mortality that occurs, that just does not doesn't rise to the level that the public notices. But yeah, 2020 was our last last known outbreak. Well, why is this happening? Why does this happen? Yeah, so it happens, because of how the pond system, you know, all of our urban ponds and that kind of the ecology of our urban ponds. So botulism types, see, or any botulism is a Clostridium bacteria that produces a toxin, when it reproduces, and it only reproduces really under anaerobic conditions. And so what happens is through cause it's a soil borne bacteria, so areas, you know, it's normally in the soil but areas that you had previous outbreaks, you're going to have a higher soil load than areas where there hasn't been an outbreak before. And basically what happens is when you get reproduction that bacteria through ever anaerobic conditions and that toxin is reproduced the environment. When birds die, they'll have some level of toxin and when maggots grow in and and, you know in the in the decomposing bird, they pick up that botulism toxin and then other birds consume the maggot. get sick, and that's how the outbreak can perpetuate. It's the consumption of maggot additional birds dying. They decomposed under anaerobic conditions with maggot growth. Those Words are consumed. So, you know, all birds have some small level of bacillus spores within their liver. But, you know, reaches a point where you get an outbreak during and the anaerobic conditions, you know, you have a lot of growth. And they reproduce more to under anaerobic conditions, the warm temperatures, so we have, you know, warm temperatures. And that what that does is a couple things. One is it, the warmer the temperature, the lower the dissolved oxygen, and a body of water is going to be the less oxygen that can be dissolved in that water. The colder the water, the higher, the higher, the more oxygen can be dissolved in that water, too, we get warm temperatures lead algal growth. And when the algae died, the decomposition of that algae also, you know, uses the decomposition process that process whenever you have any, you know, allergies kind of happens specifically now, but any dead vegetation was decomposing uses oxygen, so it can use up oxygen during that. And then we also have low flows, low flows with the warmer water at least stagnant water, you know, to turn over water aeration of water, water moving in is all sources that are going to bring cool or higher, more oxygenated water into a pond. And so what we have in a lot of these urban areas is these warm, shallow ponds, lots of algae growth, but a water movement, you know, high amount of duck feces, so a lot of nitrogen algal growth. And it just sets up this kind of perfect condition for botulism to grow and outbreak to occur. So does that, does that answer that question? For you? Yeah, it does. So basically, what I'm understanding is that increasing water flow would have prevented this, but some of these ponds don't have a lot of water flow. Is there a reason for that? You know, I'm not familiar with the ins and outs of all the ponds. You know, I mean, honestly, the Truckee Meadows was historically, you know, a marshy wetland that always had slow moving water towards the Truckee, and we've turned that into, you know, little urban cemented in urban ponds that are shallow, that don't have shade covers, so they're getting hotter, you know, they don't have adequate water flow. I mean, the drought certainly plays a role, but a lot of its, you know, that the construction of these ponds, you know, historically wasn't necessarily meant to mimic, you know, a natural ecosystem. They're meant to be, you know, nice ponds for people to walk around. And so or they're meant to, you know, how stormwater runoff or things like that, and so, there's yet a lot of issues how they are constructed, there's low water flow, there's, you know, kind of this cemented in things that create more warmth. There's nothing normal read cover that might provide some shade and some cooling. And you know, we have hotter temperatures, we have a drought. All in then we have a lot of congregation of birds, we have fertilizer use, you know, on all those green spaces, which runs off creates algal blooms, and then the subsequent anaerobic conditions from algal die. So all of those kind of lead to that situation, you know, where I mean, not to say that there aren't botulism outbreaks in natural ecosystems, they certainly are and they happen you know, it's out of Stillwater, we always have some level of small numbers of animals that die from botulism. So I know that we're on a flight for bird species, is there any concern that this could impact? Rare danger? Otherwise, concern? Um, you know, potentially, but it's honestly in the grand scheme of things. It's a small it's very small outbreak here in Reno. One is we're still in the summer. Most of the birds hanging around here resident birds, often by the time the main migration comes through the this doesn't always happen, but you may see that the weather has cooled off. And this this bosses Mavericks have gone away with cooler weather, and less reproduction of the bacteria. So far, every report we're getting is mallards and Canada geese. So you know not species of concern. Generally resident species are not resident species to choose me but the birds that are around here in the summer or resident birds, they're not migratory birds, right. Okay. So you're talking about water conditions that are not essentially healthy for birds. What are the things terms for humans you know, obviously, you know, there's as far as botulism goes, you know, it is a disease that you get by consuming it. So there's you know, unless somebody was to go out and eat a botulism you know, infected bird which I don't know that anybody would want to go do that they've moved to Ottawa. You know, if they're out the fall even, you know, duck hunting, then they want healthy buying birds. So that's, that being said, with algal blooms. The high nitrogen you can you can get blue green algae outbreaks Don't you know, certainly just lead to kind of unhealthy water conditions. Congregation of too many birds can also lead to parasite that causes swimmers itch if people want the water. And so, you know, we definitely advise people, you know, don't go on the water when you see dead birds, you know, don't handle their their sick birds. Or if you do, you know, you have a pond that you're disposing of, you know, wear gloves, you just trash bag, those kinds of things to prevent exposure to yourself. Anything else you want to add? It sounds like this will disappear. Once the temperatures cool a bit. Yeah, I mean, it should go away once the temperature cools. I mean, for those that own, you know, private ponds, where they can they can, they can definitely help the situation by and prevent future outbreaks or help decrease the chance of future outbreaks by adding aerators to the pond. So I know Virginia lakes has tried to do that. You know, so for some of these HOAs, and things like that, with these private ponds, definitely, you know, improving water quality management includes, you know, improving things. And then improving aeration, this system will help prevent future outbreaks and can reduce the severity of the outbreak. I would say that's the main the main thing I would just recommend, and then I would just tell people yet don't handle dead birds. Hopefully this will go away. Or it should go away once cooler weather prevails. So basically, you've got one confirmed at this South Meadows pond and suspected at Paradise. And I suspect that's what's going on with everyplace I've had calls about. I've had calls on multiple different private areas kind of in south. So I wouldn't leave. So that one. Yeah. I mean, we've had concerns from the public about dead or sick birds. But when our urban wildlife person's gone out there, they haven't located any, so I'm not sure if they've been cleaned up. Or if people messed up that so that one I'm we haven't gotten the samples from because our urban wildlife burst has been out there a couple times and hasn't hasn't found any birds that are consistent with botulism, there may be I mean, there's always going to be you have the huge congregation of Burgess and his paws, there's always going to be one or two dead ones, right? Just with the number of birds that you have, so that the Virginia lakes I suspect that may be going on there, we've had a history of it there. But we haven't gotten any carcasses or clinical signs there by any of our staff to confirm that whereas paradise Park Lake Park, a little more consistent, and I suspect that we've had carcasses from there that we're sending off for testing. So Sue, you know, I but I would suspect that you know, with a number of reports I'm getting around across across Reno, that, you know, we have quite a few number of small botulism outbreaks just in our ponds. You know, don't obviously let your pets like consume birds or come in contact with that, you know, kind of our, our advice, you know, that we go with, that we kind of give to the public about wildlife mortalities, and secondary wildlife, you know, holds true here, just less than anything else, which is, you know, don't let your pets come in contact with sick or dead wildlife. You know, don't come in contact with sacred dead wildlife, if you need to move it or throw it away, use gloves, wash your hands. All those kinds of good hygiene practices. You know, if there's, water doesn't look so good, a lot of birds in there that stay out of the water, keep your pets out of the water, that kind of thing. So pretty poor water quality in a lot of these lakes. A lot of these ponds. So I mean, I think people kind of specially look at a lot of these ponds, and that when there's a hybrid contact, they kind of know, you know, hey, that doesn't look so good. When so when the water quality looks pretty questionable, then yeah, I would tell them, you probably don't want to have your pets drinking out of that either. Okay, but not just from a botulism standpoint, but from just a general health standpoint. Donna clients has been a longtime advocate for seniors in the Reno area. And she recently sent a press release to the news media. She said that seniors were outraged at the City of Reno. I asked her about what happened. The building was called a tegu. Yes, Paradise Park Activity Center has been a senior activity place since about 1997. And it's a it's a small building that's located in the city's paradise Park. It's across the street from Bernice Matthews. And it it has about 1500 senior residents living right around nearby. And they're the ones that can walk over to go to exercise class or play beanbag baseball or play cards or do some other other kinds of fun activities and hang out with their friends and have a cup of coffee and that kind of thing. But we found out a few days before the 16th of August that the city of Reno is planning to lease wants, well, they want to lease the building to a nonprofit here in town. How did how did you? How did you come to find that out had nobody not communicated with you or that is right. The whole senior community was pretty much taken by surprise. It had to go on a public agenda for the Reno commission, Recreation and Parks Commission. And so they're they're a group of appointed folks that give advice to city council about the Parks Recreation and Parks programs. So something like this goes on their agenda before it can go to council and they give a recommendation. So it appeared on the on their agenda for the 16th of August for meeting at six o'clock in the evening. And I didn't even find out about until that day someone called me and said, Do you know that this is happening? I said what? So I was on Zoom? To watch it because I COVID at the time, and I couldn't go Oh, no. Yeah, so it was it was like COVID, it was just a bad cold kind of COVID. Anyway, I'm done. And I'm healthy again. Anyway, so. So what I was told by the other the other seniors is that somehow they found out about it just a few days before the meeting. And they rallied as many folks as they could get to show up at in person at the at the best this commission meeting was over at McKinley Park and they filled the room, they had to actually move it into the, into the auditorium instead of a little room that they usually use because they had, you know, about 9090 folks come in protest and but 30 of them made public comment to say please don't do this, this is this place means a lot to us and, and you know all the reasons why it is a great place for for the seniors that live around there. And even who come from other parts of town for your news release noted that the facility costs $70,000 a year to run. But because of the pandemic, nobody was using it. And now they're saying because of lack of use, that's why they're going to maybe use it out to this nonprofit that are correct. That's correct. It's a little there's a little more to it. There before COVID, the paradise Park had about I don't know 1617 different activities that happen throughout the day, it was pretty, pretty packed, pretty busy place. And there were nearly 10,000 folks a year that we're in and out of that building using the using the goat you know, participating in the programs inside. It isn't it doesn't have tennis courts, or basketball courts or pickleball space or any of that it's just a big, it's one big room. So it can't really take on a lot more of the active things that go on at the other recreation centers like Evelyn mount or no road. It was it was pretty busy before COVID. And then COVID happened and they shut shut the building down. And it was the last one of the facilities that they decided to open back up again. And when they opened it up, they only put they only allowed like six activities again, so they cut they slashed the programs drastically. So that's one of the reasons that there aren't a lot of numbers to count. But the seniors that go there you know are there in in pretty good numbers considering it was like two thirds of the two thirds of the programs and about two thirds of the of the the old numbers are still showing up. And the other part about the 70,000 which I didn't know that Jamie Jamie Schroeder who I typo it in that first release. I know someone that Rodriguez I don't know that. Anyway, Jamie told everybody that it costs about 70,000 because somebody asked, you know what, you know what, what does it cost and what's the least likely to be in there? So they hadn't worked the details out yet of the lease, but she said 70 70k The people that that go to Paradise Park are, many of them are low income. And during just before COVID, the, the, the, the Rec and Park folk created a free pass for people that are low income to go to a lot of programs that, that they'll pay nothing for. They qualify for the past, and they have the cost. And that is what a lot of our seniors that go to Paradise Park, go there, it's free to them, they don't pay, they don't pay a dime, which is the reason it was created that way to encourage folks to come and do recreation and socialize. Even if they don't have much money, which is wonderful, it's a great, it's a great thing. But that means Paradise has got very little income, because a lot of their places and people that go there don't have to pay anything. And the others that do pay, it's only like two bucks, instead of the costs of the other rec centers, which are lots of different programs, and there's a lot more cost. So they can, they can naturally bring in a lot more money. So it's it's apples and oranges, you can't compare that, you know that that? Whatever the income turns out to be. So we disputed that at the meeting. One of the members of the Commission actually is somebody who spends time at Paradise parking and knew that the numbers were or, you know, brought in the numbers that that are the correct ones. And so that there was dispute between what the what the staff was saying and then what the the commissioner had gotten some, some better info. So that was one of the reasons that that the rec Commission decided to postpone their their decision to get more public input and also to, you know, find out what the right numbers are. One of the things I learned from being, you know, kind of involved in this stuff for a while is that recreation programs are not even expected to bring in the full cost, right in revenue that they that it costs because it's a public service. And I think senior programs are only supposed to have to bring in and this is from from a consultant's report a few years ago, I think it was like 25% is is kind of looked at as you know, you aim for that. But if you don't get it, you know, you're still doing your public service, and you got to take into account your community and stuff like that. I don't know if it was misleading, but it certainly doesn't jibe with what we we knew which was true. And so after the meeting, I know that staff from from record parks, started checking further into it. So I don't know what the final outcome is going to be on the numbers, but the staff, the gal who's direct leader at Paradise Park, kept very good records of, you know, the numbers of folks that were in, in there for what activities, and they had to turn in the money every day for the you know, every every few days, to the you know, to, to get it on the books. So they knew how much money they brought in. And they also knew, you know, how many were coming for what, what activities because they have people sign in when they come in. So most of them so they've got records of paradise parks, actual use usage, it's way more than what they were reporting and they made it they made it sound like it was underutilized. And, and that it would be better and better served to the you know, to the community at large. Do you have that building? You know, bring in the you know, better revenue, which you know, you can you weigh that in that makes that, you know, that's a it's a public policy kind of thing. But to me, you can't, you can't forget that it's serving a huge community right nearby and with what COVID did to everybody, especially our seniors, getting them back out of the house and into healthy, you know, activity and hanging with each other and, you know, socializing and all that that is goodbye that cost dollars. You know, you just cannot. I am a senior and I am a private citizen, and I care about things like this. So thanks a lot, Bob. I really appreciate and I appreciate how you know how closely you're following everything and everybody. So Oh, thank you. I rely on tips quite a bit. Yeah. Great. Well, thanks for the attention on this one. Yeah, this is exactly kind of the story that we like to follow because yeah, it's local. It's relevant to a large group of people. And that's that's usually sort of our criteria for stories as the city decided after news media coverage of the situation to change its mind and not pursue the lease. That's it for this week in Reno news. Please give the show review on your favorite podcast app and visit us online at this is reno.com